James Macintyre asked yesterday, in response to a speech Davis made at the Bristol Chambers of Commerce. The question should enter John Rentoul’s entertaining list of questions to which the answer is No. Macintyre takes Davis’ comments out of context:
‘First, he [Davis] praises the post-war Labour Prime Minister Clement Atlee, who is credited with creating the NHS and the Welfare State, and effectively compares him to Margaret Thatcher:
“Attlee created the modern Welfare State at a time when the country was bankrupt after the war. Mrs Thatcher transformed the country after 1979 when it was at its lowest ebb.”’
“When times are tough, that is when we as a nation do the most extraordinary things. Attlee created the modern Welfare State at a time when the country was bankrupt after the war. Mrs Thatcher transformed the country after 1979 when it was at its lowest ebb. We are now in similar circumstances.”
Which is a rallying cry, not a note of dissent. Next, Macintyre intimates that Davis’ support for manufacturing isn’t Tory policy. Well, it is. And even the backbench is committed to restoring a viable manufacturing base.
‘Next, he goes on to complain about neglect of the poor and attacks the way in which most top jobs are taken by those from "public school backgrounds"
‘The second area of concern is social mobility. Youngsters from poorer backgrounds have less chance now of making their way in the world than ever before. Despite everything, more of the top jobs in our country are being taken by people from public school backgrounds. If we are to compete in the 21st century, we need to give maximum opportunity to everyone.”’
The widening gap between rich and poor is the tragic legacy of both Thatcherism and New Labour. Reversing that trend has long been a goal for Cameron and Davis: back in 2007, the two launched a commission on social mobility. Hard as Macintyre tries, and independant minded though Davis is, there is no Whelan and Mandelson split story here